:-) Flow charts, notes, or stickies don’t help me, because I just lose them!
No, the storylines, characters, series are all in my head. Each series is so different from the others that I don’t have difficulty keeping the worlds separate. Each set of characters has a unique story as well, so once I’m in their story, I’m totally immersed. The other stories and worlds don’t intrude.
I do have files to keep track of character names, especially of secondary characters who might appear in only one book. I don’t like to re-use names, though I do on occasion (in different series). I can’t always remember the names characters of who played very small parts, so I need the lists. I admit that while writing Tiger Magic, I did once call Liam Ian! Slip of the fingers. But I caught it. :-)
2. Will Ellison's story be a full length novel or anthology and will it come before or after Tiger Magic.
Ellison’s story, Lone Wolf, will be out in April (Tiger Magic is out in June). Ellison’s book is what I call a half-length novel; it’s about half the size of the full-length novels. Lone Wolf will come out in e- first, then Berkley will do a print version.
3. Can you give us a hint about Ellison's mate? (Shifter or human??)
Ellison’s mate is Maria Ortega, one of the women who was rescued from the group of feral Shifters in Mexico in Wild Cat. Maria is human, and she’s come to live with the Shifters in the Austin Shiftertown.
Maria is trying to put her life back together and move on, and Ellison becomes very possessive of her. He understands that Maria needs time to pull herself together, but he’s assigned himself to keep everyone else away from her.
In this story, you’ll see a lot of Connor, plus the rest of the Morrisseys. Olaf, the cute little polar bear Ronan is raising plays a part in this story too.
4. What world do you find easier to write- Your shifter world, historical, or urban fantasy?
They’re all a challenge! I love them all too. I love getting into the Shifters, because they’re in-your-face, bad-ass guys (and girls), who lay it all on the line. I love the historicals because I enjoy the lush, Victorian world, plus the dysfunctional Mackenzie family, plus Scottish history, plus the Mackenzies (did I say that already)? They are tortured guys who need some loving. I also love my urban fantasy world, because it’s more pure fantasy (which I grew up reading). Plus I can get inside the head of kick-ass Janet, and spend time with the uber-hot Mick. I write a fifth series—a historical mystery series as Ashley Gardner. That one is dark (I call it the “dark side” of the Regency) and features the hero, Captain Gabriel Lacey, injured in the Napoleonic War and now back in London, broke and jobless. The character grows throughout the series. I’m working on book eight now, and love writing that too!
5. How do you come up with character names? Do you think of the names first then work with a description from there? Do you ever look online for pictures that fit your description of the characters to look at while you write their story?
Names are so important!
For character names, I have lists of names I’ve collected for years, most of them split into ethnicity: English names; Scottish; Irish; Spanish; French; even Greek and Egyptian.
When I need a character name, I think about who the character is (and where he or she is from, and their historical context) and scroll through the lists until I hit on the right one, with the right combination of first and last name.
I usually picture the character first. They start talking and walking, acting and thinking, while I scream at them: What is your name??? Tell me! Please!!!
I want to make sure the name matches the character I’m thinking about—sometimes I use a name for fifty pages, and then change it if it’s just wrong for that person.
For photos—I usually can’t find anything close to the character I’m picturing in my head. Most female models I see are too thin for my heroines (who tend to be tall with proportions to match or voluptuous or pleasingly plump). My only petite heroine is Janet Begay of Stormwalker, but she was born on the small side and burns off any fat fighting.
Likewise guys either look too young or they’re the wrong build (too big and pumped or too spindly, LOL). They characters in my head look much more real, than models, though actors come closer. For example, I think Colin Firth would be fantastic as one of the Mackenzies, or as my mystery hero Gabriel Lacey.
6. Since you like to travel, tell us what is the most interesting place you have ever visited and why?
Tough to narrow it down. I’ve been to Hong Kong, before it went back to being part of China, which was interesting. A blend of British and Chinese culture.
I enjoyed Ireland too. I had heard all my life that it was the “Emerald Isle,” but I thought that was poetic fantasy. But it really is emerald! Brilliant green everywhere. We took a train from Dublin to Cork, along the coast and then a ferry to France. Though the horrific train wreck we passed in France is stamped on my memory too. I would have been on that train if we hadn’t stayed in Ireland an extra day.
Kyoto, Japan fascinated me too. It used to be Japan’s capital city, before it moved to Tokyo, and is steeped in history.Spending my first wedding anniversary in Switzerland wasn’t too bad either. ;-)
I am now trying to travel as much as I can in the U.S. (I mean to hit every state, and I have only a couple left), but there are many more places out there I want to explore as well.
7. Have you ever modeled a character after yourself?
LOL, no. I think of myself as on the boring side—the most interesting people are in my head! If I ever write myself into a book, I’m standing on the side looking on, a society hostess maybe, giving the ball my H / h attend. I’ll get out of the way to let my characters take center stage. More fun for me. :-)
8. How did you get interested in miniature dollhouses, how many do you currently have?
I got interested in dollhouses when I was about 10, and my parents didn’t have the money to buy me one. (Real ones are expensive.) I found some books in the library about how to make dollhouses out of boxes, and started in.
When I was in high school I bought plans to build a real house out of wood, and my dad and I put it together. I still have the house (The Big House), and in fact I’m currently remodeling it.
I now have two large 1-inch scale houses (1 inch = 1 foot); one smaller 1-inch scale house; two 1/2-inch scales houses (1/2 inch = 1 foot), five 1/4-inch scale houses (yep, really small), five or six room boxes, and five or six smaller scenes.
Is this enough for me? Of course not. I keep getting ideas for more. Plus there’s all those kits I’ve bought over the years waiting for me to put them together . . .
See the photos for a shot of a remodeled room in The Big House, a pretty room in The Blue House B&B, and a small, whimsical scene (“This Mess is a Place”). I blog about my ongoing projects at http://www.jennsminis.wordpress.com
The Big House This Mess is a Place The Blue House B&B
9. Installment #5 from the Highland Pleasures, THE SEDUCTION OF ELLIOT McBRIDE was released on New Year’s Eve. Would you tell us a little about it?
Elliot McBride is connected to the Mackenzies series through Elliot—he is the brother of Ainsley, the heroine of The Many Sins of Lord Cameron. Elliot spent time in the army in India, then became a civilian businessman there, and was captured in Afghanistan during a trip he and one of his friends took to the north of India. Elliot was imprisoned by an Afghan tribe and had nasty things done to him (which he talks about in the book), which have left him scarred inside and out.
He escapes and returns to Scotland to regain his sanity, buying a tumbledown castle from his great uncle, intending to learn to live in Scotland again.
His childhood sweetheart, Juliana, is about to walk down the aisle, to find herself jilted at the last moment by her fiancé. When she runs into Elliot at the church, she impulsively asks him to marry her to save her from shame. Elliot doesn’t mind at all.
Elliot takes Juliana home to the tumbledown castle, where Juliana has her hands full with Elliot’s Uncle McGregor, four Indian servants bewildered and far from home, an Indian child, and various animals that are picked up here and there.
Juliana also realizes that Elliot is not the man she loved when they were teenagers. That Elliot is gone, replaced with a scarred stranger who can’t communicate to her what he’s been through.It’s a story of love, redemption, and understanding. I loved writing this book.
The next full-length novel is about Daniel Mackenzie, who will be all grown up, with his natural Mackenzie charm.
10. What future projects will be coming our way from you next?
Quite a few! I just signed a new contract with Berkley to bring you all kinds of stuff:
Scheduled for 2013
March: “Perfect Mate” in the Unbound anthology (Shifters, Nell’s story)
April: Lone Wolf (Shifters, Ellison’s story)
June: Tiger Magic (Shifters, Tiger’s story)
August: The Untamed Mackenzie (Mackenzies, Fellow’s story)
October: The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Mackenzies, Daniel’s story)
November: Shifters Unbound novella (I think this is Jace’s story)
January: Shifters Unbound novel (Graham’s story)
Not scheduled (but will come out as time permits)
A Disappearance in Drury Lane (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #8, w / a Ashley Gardner)
Stormwalker #5 (as Allyson James)
Shareem #9 (as Allyson James)
Most of the scheduled books with Berkley are already written, and I’ll fit in the self-pub books as they get finished. I’ve learned not to schedule pub dates for the self-pubs as the manuscripts get finished.
That’s all! :-) Thanks so much for inviting me!
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley has lived and traveled all over the world, and now lives in the Southwest. She writes historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance as Jennifer Ashley; mysteries as Ashley Gardner; and paranormal romance and urban fantasy as Allyson James.
Jennifer's/Allyson's/Ashley's novels have won RWA's RITA award, the Golden Quill, RT Reviewer's Choice awards, and the Prism award, among others. Jennifer's novels have been also been translated into nearly a dozen European and Asian languages.
Jennifer enjoys writing and reading above all else, but her hobbies include cooking, hiking, playing flute and guitar, painting, and building miniature rooms and dollhouses.